Freddie Green is an Air Traffic Manager in Miami, Florida. As an Air Traffic Manager, he leads a team that serves many Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations in and out of Miami, including Center, Approach/Departure TRACON, and Tower. He’s also the National President of the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NBCFAE), where he promotes aviation diversity nationwide.
Before he joined ATC, Green wanted to be a pilot. But, after seeing the cost and, having no pilot mentors in the industry, he decided to look at other opportunities. He enrolled in the Air Traffic Initiative Program at the College of Aeronautics (now Vaughn College), where he started his ATC career. After graduating as a Certified Professional Controller (CPC), he worked his way up the ladder, eventually reaching his senior position at the Miami facility.
As an African American, born in Jamaica, Green noticed the lack of diversity during his training. “If you are African American,” he says, “it’s not uncommon to be the only one in your facility.” However, this did not phase him much during training. After training, however, a fellow African American colleague approached him and said “you know, they wanted you to fail.”
While race should not play a role in ATC training, the reality, says Green, can be more complicated. ATC is “predominantly white and male,” he says. “It’s not as diverse as we’d like it to be.” Overall, African Americans represent 3% of the controller workforce. Echoing similar statements from many pilot trainees, he says that, in some instances, “the benchmark [a trainee must attain] is sometimes constantly shifted” for minority trainees; whereas a non-minority trainee may simply meet standards and proceed on through the remainder of training.
To Green, an ATC career is one of professionalism, camaraderie, and support. Controllers realize the critical role their jobs play in aviation safety and frequently work odd hours, including holidays and weekends. Green explains that often a controller will see their fellow controllers more than they see their own family, which develops a “culture of assisting and helping out” fellow teammates. It’s also a career of pride, as controllers strive to perfect the art of coordinating the daily movements of hundreds of airplanes carrying tens of thousands of passengers in and out of Miami.
As National President of the NBCFAE, Green strives to help build a more diverse workforce in aviation. “We need to get qualified candidates from different backgrounds,” he explains. Many people, he says, make the mistake of thinking that “they can’t do it” when really they can. “We need to promote these jobs through career days, through STEM, and through community outreach.”
Then, says Green, we need to support those entering aviation career fields. “Getting in the door is the first step. Now we have to ensure that there is fair and equal treatment once you’re in.” Green’s efforts with the NBCFAE strive to help everyone get the same opportunity. “Sometimes people of color don’t make it through a training program, and it’s sometimes not because of their ability,” says Green. “When we aren’t successful, we want to make sure it’s not because someone didn’t want us there.”